Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography
I born to a 13-year-old mother. I came home from the hospital with my grandmother and was raised by her. I grew up in the West End of Louisville in a rough neighborhood with lower income white and black people. The parents wanted their children to have better lives than they did. I went to church regularly with my grandparents, which was an important part of building my Christian faith.
I was in ROTC all four years of high school. I graduated on a Saturday and went to Marine Corps boot camp on Monday. The first trial of my faith was when I went to Afghanistan while I was in the Marines. The Muslim soldiers stopped five times to pray each day. These men were my age and were willing to put their weapons down to pray. I wondered if I would put my own weapon down for my faith. I was brought up in the church, but I had never seen conviction like that. I had never really seen someone who was willing to put their life on the line for their faith.
A few months later, we were securing buildings to make sure they didn’t have weapons. We were going into homes and trying to speak to parents. I learned that they were just like us. They weren’t evil. They were just trying to raise their children to have better lives than they did — just like the parents back in the West End of Louisville.
What helped me commit my life to Christ was the change I saw in the lives of people I grew up with. I saw people who were raised in sin and hate who, over time, experienced a change in their life. They began to serve God. Any questions I had about Christianity were resolved because I saw what Christ did in the lives of people when they accepted Him. Their lives were radically changed.
During my time in the Marine Corps I didn’t go to church a lot. I did do a lot of praying in combat. It is true what they say: There are no atheists in foxholes. Before we went out on a combat mission, we held hands and prayed together. I never met anyone in the U.S. Marines who refused to pray before a combat mission.
When I was a young Marine, I came home on a weekend and went to a club. I met a young lady and six months later my grandparents told me that a young lady was looking for me. I was 22 years old when my son was born. Over the next eight years, I went through child support and visitation. I didn’t have more children until after I was married when I was 30.
After my first daughter was born, when my son was eight years old, I did a blood test and found out he was not my biological son. But he is still my son. Here is how God worked this out. My grandfather was not my biological grandfather. My grandmother was divorced and he was my step-grandfather. But he loved me and treated me as his own child. That prepared me to deal with what happened with my son. I had no other way to treat him but the way I was treated by my grandfather. God prepares us for things coming down the pike that we don’t see coming. I have three wonderful grandkids now. They were just here Father’s Day. My son just got out of the Army himself. He is the older brother to the girls. We are all family.
I always had a curious mind. I got my undergraduate degree on active duty and got my graduate degree when I got out of the Marines. I worked with Toyota for about 13 years in quality management and then another 10 years for Honeywell in corporate quality. In 2012, I left Honeywell and started two UPS franchises in shopping centers.
Prior to this, in 2000, I had a motorcycle accident. The doctor prescribed pain killers and this was the beginning of years of struggle for me with pain pills. In 2012, I had a second motorcycle accident. I was given more opiates. Opiates change the way you think. I had gotten in trouble before but it was nothing serious. There had been no real consequences other than money.
By 2016, I was in real trouble and that’s when I lost my UPS stores. I had to short sell my businesses and face the consequences of what I had done. I went through the next three years going through that, then I went through a physical amputation. My right foot was amputated six inches below the knee. I got through my amputation on Tylenol and muscle relaxants. I committed to myself that I would not put another opiate in my body. Generally, pain won’t kill you unless it triggers a cardiac arrest. But I knew if I took opiates again, it would have destroyed my life. Right when I thought I had faced the worst thing in my life, then there was something worse.
But everything that we go through is to make us who are are supposed to be. I am a man of faith. If you believe in the Bible you can’t expect that your life will be any different than the experiences of those people in the Bible. Job was a good man, prosperous and blessed and yet he suffered greatly. I came from the West End but had become prosperous with a six-figure salary, properties and businesses. And then it went away. I am 52 years old. I never thought I would be missing a part of my body. It is trying at times, even though I know there is good that has come from it.
I am in training to become a minister. I talk to people about giving their lives to Christ and the change that will come from that decision. If I am doing something that is sinful or wrong and you are my friend, I want you to call me on it. And I do the same for my friends. I love them and stand by them, but I call them out when they are doing something wrong or sinful. One of the positives that has come from my amputation is that I have found that people listen to me more attentively now.
Everything that God teaches us in the Bible, is put there to protect us. Living life by the teachings in the Bible leads to a life of peace. Even though on the outside I am down one foot and receive disability, I am happier than I can ever remember being. I sleep well at night. The PTSD is even better. I have more peace than I’ve had in my whole life, despite how my outer body looks. As we grow and mature in our Christianity, we have internal peace. This allows me to conduct my life with more serenity than I have ever experienced before.
I have discovered that God is the ultimate Father. Nearly every parent wants the best for their children. I believe that is what God wants for us as His children. That is why he has given us the guidelines in the Bible. He has given us everything we need to be successful. All I have to do is to accept His will and work every day to adhere to it. I won’t be perfect but I can try.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)